18 September 2010 | ferguson-6
The Inexactitude of High School
Greetings again from the darkness. This is an obvious (and proud of it) homage to the great teen films of John Hughes. It is updated for this generation of teens - replete with FaceBook, texting and webcam. While this one may not have the fully realized characters of the Hughes films, it actually takes things a step further in its commentary on many topics: family life, parenting, religious zealotry, rumor-mongering and the public education system.
Writer Bert V. Royal's script delivers an intellectual and comedic look into high school life ... told through the eyes of the smart, "invisible" girl. Just a brief overview will be offered here so as not to take away from the multiple layers.
Emma Stone ("Zombieland", "The House Bunny") delivers a star-making performance as Olive. Forced into a faux-confession by her best friend, Olive experiences the efficiencies of digital gossip spreading as word leaks regarding the apparent loss of her "V card". Even though this one is based in Ojai, California, it's nice to know that high school promiscuity is still met with a certain stigma. Here that stigma is compared to Hawthorne's expert novel, The Scarlet Letter.
This sets into action a series of unforeseen events. The school's religious nuts, led by Amanda Bynes, take Olive's situation as a personal affront and spend a great deal of effort trying to punish her for her sins. At the same time, the geeks and dweebs view Olive as their savior and proceed to take advantage of the opportunity.
While she is presented as a very sharp-witted, well-grounded teenager, Olive experiences the enormous power of a reputation. All of this is balanced out by her extraordinary relationship with her free-spirited, yet wise parents played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci.
I can't possibly do justice to the script or the numerous topics broached, but I will say that it's a welcome new approach to teen movies. The usual schlock sex is replaced by sharp quips and real pressures. Do note that the dialogue is filled with much harsh language that wouldn't be welcome in an environment other than a high school campus. Further support work is offered by Penn Badgley as the good guy, Thomas Haden Church as a new world cool teacher, Malcolm McDowell as an old school principal and Lisa Kudrow as a guidance counselor (in a role that gives me permission to feel the disgust I usually feel when she is on screen).
Don't be scared off thinking this is another lousy teen flick. It is instead an insightful comedy that plays well for adults and teens. While you may not agree with all of the social observations, I believe you will agree the film is presented in a most entertaining and insightful manner.